He falls in love with her fast, but with him it’s in slow intervals, the trickle of their shower at night when Mondo forgets to twist it all the way off.
They share one bed, and sometimes all three of them do, when the nights are too rough and Daiya’s left shoulder aches in all the places it has been since he fell into the business of staining sidewalks red. Midorin can soothe all of the places in his spine and his soul that fester and rot with gentle hands and lips. When Mondo sees the scars that arch along his brother’s chest, he turns away and bites his tongue. Daiya knows that where Midorin’s words lay dormant in his mind, the silence of Mondo’s uncertainty and youth nick the corners of it until deep in the night Daiya can feel the blood seeping into his skull.
It is easy to love her. She is strong and confident and freespirited. They share the same scars, histories, battlefields. She holds his hand when needles drench his veins with masculinity. He cuts her hair in every way his mother used to cut his, before motorcycles crushed those husks beneath their blades and rubber. It is hard to imagine a life without her, and while he doesn’t know it, in the future, she will drown in a life without him.
He does not know in this hazy future she is not alone, and she does not either. That’s why it is harder to love him. Mondo’s will trembles and his footing is not always as certain as he gloats. Daiya remembers their first motorcycle ride together with his brother shaking in his lap. The cold rush of air didn’t make him nauseous but his churning innards warm with the scent of Mondo’s hair gel did. He does not remember how long they have been clasping hands on hard nights; he does not remember when he found the first rolls of binding; he does not remember the exact date of crushing his lips into his brother again and again and he knows he apologized, drunk and dim from blood and sweat of a barfight, but he can’t remember if his brother smiled or kicked him in the jaw.
The only things that feel concrete are the bruises that form constellations on every inch of his flesh and when Zatsu makes a snide remark about Midorin’s lack of lipstick surrounding dark purple marks of shame it takes him a full minute to realize that he is ashamed. It is the night before the world dips into starry ecstasy and Midorin tells him again and again that he is not as disgusting as his worn out mind is making him feel, and maybe that is why the next day when Mondo demands the bike match he accepts if only to ride so fast his spine tingles and his stitches twitch and before he can read the third letter of the license plate (U R T) he realizes that he is smiling because his brain is on the pavement and Mondo’s screams don’t make his gut flip in perverted delight.
Aoi Asahina remembers the first time she sees blood.
She is five years old, sheltered and pampered by a family just above the middle class. Her home has a pool. By this time, she can swim; they say that the moment she was settled into the artifically heated water, her legs kicked, her arms sprawled. Her mother tells her a story that at the moment is brand new and precious, but quickly grows worn and faded from then on, about how her first word is “splash.” The cement is warm under the summer sun, and it is damp on her bottom and her palms where she is sitting at the edge of the pool. Everything in this memory is tinted green.
Her father tells her not to run. Not in the aisles of the grocery store, not from the car to the door, especially not when it comes along with the challenge of a race to her mother, whose hands shake in a way that, at this age, Aoi has not realized yet. Her father tells her not to run, but when her sister splashes her in the eyes and the chlorine burns, her shouts ring off the windows and the surface of the water. She gets up, and she remembers that the doctor pinched her knee and told her she was a strong girl for her age. It is fresh on her mind when she sprints.
Her sister is ten, eleven in three days. Aoi is six in four months. She thinks that by six, she will be able to reach Saya’s dark, dark hair. The sun never reaches her sister, it seems, not like it kisses Aoi in ways she worries about. She is blinded by it when she rounds the corner, the setting sun so bright as it dips under their fence, and she doesn’t catch herself with her hands. Her teeth clamp down too hard and her nose makes a noise like jumping in leaves and she swings her head up so hard that the blood settles in the water. It sinks, and her screams float, and her father has to yank her up by her aching arms to stop her from following her first impulse of tumbling into the pool’s depths.
Her blood is on his hands, and on hers, and her sister is paler than ever before, and she realizes how ugly and thick and terrible her insides are when the crimson makes her throw up. The water splashes, and the sun is going down, and beneath her, the puddles from ten minutes before start to grow cold around her purpling toes.
I remember there were times when I was not
An ocean, contaminated by filth, unexplored
By beings who grew to fear my depths and crevices;
Instances where my despair did not tremble
Blankets of wave and surf, dislodging conches
And abalone in my grief. My cries did not always
Rupture submarines and soothe open wounds,
But it seems somewhere in the past there was
A great flood, and even God himself sought to
Bury humanity in the hollows of my soul.
The lesions of your words,
Your nervous glances and
Cannot be removed.
Believe me, I have used
Knife, and axe, and saw
But I cannot gore out
Your presence from my flesh.
You are a festering wound
That neither meds, nor time
Can heal, and in my veins,
Your poison makes my head ache.
I have lived through
The bombing of my soul,
My heart an atomic wasteland
Where flowers have only just begun to grow.
You are best for me when I am at my bitterest:
You touch my hand when I am scrawling out the
Ways your smile and absent kisses make me ache,
Your fingers skating over the bruises on my knuckles,
Willing the scribes to stop; and while my hips and thighs
Never get warm due to distance your words
Shake the very core of me, the messy muddled mesh
That is my meaning, I sometimes I believe if your
Long hair brushes just the right freckle on my neck the
Atomic bomb in my pit will cease and desist.
For a second I believe that all of me is perfect.
You grow up in a town
Where no one dreams
Rockets rising into a sky
That is as gray as gray can be
No one looks up from their tracks
Their triple heart attacks
Their wet nightmares and vague smiles
This is the place you lost your sight
Couldn’t read the signs that said
Stop while you’re ahead
It takes ten threats until your voice
Penetrates, and by then your throat
Is hoarse from singing the same three choir songs
And in the wings they say you don’t
Believe in God, though Jesus shares
Your initials, J.C. and no one asks you
What you think of the heavens
You were raised far away from
And every girl you love is
Another notch on empty pillows
Another night spent expecting
Death that you are so afraid of
Conditioned to fear Hell
When the warmth is preferred
To the static of your mother’s hugs
The siren wailing and blue and red tinted memories
Of a youth devoured by pain meds
And booze. Your papa is a junkie
But your mother is his bruised fist and
They call you crazy for crying
When you’re really crazy for driving
The wish of car crashes deep
Into your core,
And you know your empty chair in high school is a tomb
But your empty desk in kindergarten is the murder scene.
The story is simple:
A man makes a child
Whose only concepts of the world
Are through strings and growing noses,
He learns to eat and breathe and sing
Because of pixie dust, he drowns with no lungs,
In the belly of a whale, and at the end of the tale,
As reward for doing exactly what his senile father
And a fairy that stands in for God say,
He gets to be what they call “a real boy.”
When I say I am a real boy,
They grab my tits and thighs and hips
And make me wish I was wooden again,
Because even Pinocchio was rumored to get a dick,
And we can believe in bottomless whale,
In the glow of good faeries but we cannot believe
In gender that is not defined by genitalia.
What makes a puppet more than my flesh and blood?
His clothing was not exceptionally butch,
His muscles nonexistent but I am pushed
And defined by skirt hems and denim jeans,
My word is not enough to stand up to
Bullshit hypermasculinity that I am forced to abide by
And here is the real meaning behind your words:
You take a fairytale’s gender more seriously than my own.
My words do not fly to the north star, my feet
Are not bleeding and bruised from trying to fit into glass slippers,
My nose does not grow when I tell a lie and I wish it did,
Every day I wish you could see it never so much as twitch
When I scream that I am a real boy,
I am a real boy,
I am a real boy.
In pursuit of truth, I rotted. My heart became a wasteland, where no being sang, no flora thrived. I drank galaxies as though I would never drink again. My fingers counted Adam’s ribs, found the missing one that dotted Eve’s brow. My tears muddied my brain, and as I gazed upon God and his playground, I wondered when he had become so small, my hands so large. When he held me, his arms were lonely, they could not fit fully around my waist. He told me the story of his fastings, his starvation, and I counted his freckles and sang “Hallelujah, Hallelujah.”
When I opened my eyes once more, the atoms caught in my lungs, burning as though I had overestimated the depth of this ocean. My mass pulled, and my hair caught in the spinning arms of the sun. When I died, my body was buried deep under weeping willows, and I could feel their tears each night when I tried to crawl out of my grave. The atoms caught in my lungs, burning as though I had overestimated the depth of this grave. They hung me in the stars, and when I tickled the planets, they sang “Hallelujah, Hallelujah.”
Even Jesus had a mother. Mine broke mirrors and yanked hair. Mine clinked her spoon against wooden bowls. Mine is in the air, cumulus and cirrus and nimbus. I picture her when the trickling of my soul is yanked into thick braids, when my skin crawls under the weight of a strange body, when the trees tap against my window at night. I tell God that he is as absent as any father could be. I tell God that he upholds the values instilled in my broken family bones. Virgin Mary weeps on my braids, on my wrists, between my thighs. Even Jesus pets her hair and sings “Hallelujah, Hallelujah.”